If you’re building a life outside the 9-to-5, you’ll need an abundance of courage and a plan for your money. Kate Holmes, CFP®, shares how she’s living a nontraditional life on her own terms.

As a kid, I thought being a Grownup meant having a steady job, getting married, buying a house, and having kids. That was the example all around me and what was perpetuated on TV and in movies. As I got older, I realized being a Grownup meant the ability to make your own decisions. To choose your own path. To take risks knowing the benefits and consequences are yours. The “because I said so” line of rejection is gone. (Thank goodness!)

As adults, it’s finally up to us. And this is a pretty great time to become a Grownup. We live in the best time for following our dreams and prospering. The world isn’t perfect, but the opportunities it’s providing us sure are exciting. For those that are more afraid of living an ordinary life than they are of failure, it’s an ideal time to think about what you really want your life to look like and go after it. I did.

Grownup Lesson 1: Finding Yourself

I’ve long prided myself on my ability to fit in. I can get along with nearly anyone and tend to dive right in when needed. These are valuable qualities, but I realized I was losing myself in my quest to be whatever the environment called for.

You’ve cultivated the person you outwardly show to the world…but is there another person hiding inside of you?

I believe there is.

Different jobs, friends, and environments bring out different sides of us. They certainly did for me. My ability to adapt to almost any situation and perfect the me I was showing the world ultimately derailed me from my initial nontraditional path.

I got my degree (in photography) in Australia and planned on traveling the world for years, photographing, taking odd jobs, and experiencing all I could. I had a great plan and friends around the world I could stay with. As graduation grew near and my peers were landing jobs, suddenly the pangs of responsibility entered my life. My grand plans seemed irresponsible and I worried I’d wind up in my late 20s with a non-existent resumé and setting myself up as a ne’er do well.

I let the (self-inflicted) peer pressure get to me, and by my 25th birthday I was settled into my career at an investment advisory firm, had just said my “I do’s”, and had two full-time stepchildren. By all visible and measurable metrics, I was thriving. The only problem: that world traveling, come-what-may spirit was hiding inside of me ready to take over, whether I was prepared or not. (Spoiler alert: The unprepared side of me won.)

Grownup Lesson 2: Creating Your Nontraditional Path

Throwing caution to the wind and going all in is exciting, but doesn’t leave much room for error. I don’t recommend you quit your job, launch a new business, end your relationship, and move out of state in the spectacular fashion I did. Though, if you can believe it, it all worked out better than I could have hoped.

I attribute my success to taking time to be honest with myself and define my happiest life.

I had also made a number of financial moves throughout my 20s that provided me with the flexibility to be rather spontaneous. I’ve never been a fan of debt. For me, the stress that comes with debt outweighs my disappointment or struggle in having to delay a purchase. I was able to avoid debt, though, by always living below my means. I set myself up to effectively live paycheck-to-paycheck. My retirement savings came out automatically, as did money for my emergency fund and travel savings. Whatever went in to checking was all I had for the month. Remember, I was in a house with two kids. Holidays, birthdays, back-to-school, and day-to-day expenses get expensive, so many months were tight.

When I decided that the 9-to-5 life wasn’t the one I was meant to be living, I was comforted in knowing I wasn’t weighed down with debts, I had savings to get me through, and as I built my business I knew the retirement savings I socked away throughout my 20s would continue working for me.

My 30-something life couldn’t be more different than the one I assumed I would have as a child. I run my own business, I’m not married, I don’t have (and don’t plan on having) children, and I’ve never owned a house.

As I made the series of tough decisions to create the nontraditional life I had planned a decade prior, there have been two strong themes throughout: money and courage.

Grownup Lesson 3: Making Smart Money Decisions

As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, it’s important to me to make wise decisions with my money, especially since I know what those decisions should be. The challenge is that much of the conventional wisdom revolves around following the traditional path. I eventually took on a little debt and went a long time without contributing to savings. Few CFP® professionals would recommend this as general advice, but it highlights the importance of first determining what your happiest life looks like, then creating a financial plan to go after it.

The courage I needed was immeasurable. I had to recognize that I wasn’t being true to myself and it was time to create my own path. I had a family that supported me and made me laugh every day. I had a good life. It was what many people spend a lifetime to find. But for me, it didn’t fill my soul. I wasn’t being my authentic self.

A great thing happens when you are true to yourself, though. The novelist Paulo Coelho said it best: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

Go down the nontraditional path. Be your authentic self and allow the universe to help you along the way.

Kate Holmes

Kate Holmes, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, is the Founder of Belmore Financial, LLC, a location-independent financial planning practice she started on her quest towards living her happiest life. Kate works with professionals in their 20s to 40s who are ready to challenge the status quo and go after their happiest life.

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